Tag Archives: Dry January

When drinking wine is like eating chocolate biscuits

On Friday I had to interview some people who’d taken part in Dry January. Truth be told, the feature was kind of my idea, but I wasn’t expecting to actually have to do it myself. I wasn’t in the mood for talking to people who were about to celebrate their sober success by getting pissed. So when it was assigned to me, I did what I do best and put it off for as long as possible.

I’ve written before about how weird I think the concept of Dry January is. All other public health campaigns encourage people to make a permanent change to their lives. Stoptober is all about stopping smoking, permanently. Change 4 Life encourages healthy eating, forever. But Dry January? It seems to imply that a month of saintly living is enough to counteract 11 months of boozing it up.

Anyway. On Friday afternoon – after taking a long lunch break, sorting through all my emails and making several cups of tea – I finally got round to picking up the phone. Despite my reluctance, chatting to the Dry January-ers was actually quite interesting.

For starters, their enthusiasm was infectious. They’d all lost weight, saved money and slept better. They’d got lots more done on Sundays. They’d realised that it was possible to socialise without drinking. They’d started to think about how much of their drinking was done out of sheer habit. It was all I could do not to chime in with “Well, wait till you get to 10 months, then you really will feel amazing!” But as I was in the office, surrounded by colleagues who still seem to be largely oblivious to my sobriety, I kept my mouth shut.

I was speaking to one lovely lady, Helen, when something clicked for me. I was listening to her talking about her love of white wine when I realised that her relationship with alcohol was about the same as the one I have with chocolate biscuits.

Helen likes a glass of wine when she gets home from work. It makes her feel better. At first she found not drinking hard, because it had become part of her routine. I love chocolate digestives with a cup of tea in the afternoon. But if I’m on a diet (hello January) I’ll try to cut them out altogether. I found that hard to start with, but got into the swing of things after a while. If Helen has a bad day at work, she might have two glasses of wine to cheer herself up. But she’d never drink enough to get a hangover or be incapable of looking after her children. If I’m having a bad afternoon I might have four biscuits instead of two. But as much as I love them, I’m never going to eat the whole packet because I know that would make me feel ill. And eating biscuits doesn’t actually solve anything.

Crucially, I could see that Helen felt her drinking had become a bad habit, one that she was keen to get on top of. But she wasn’t obsessed by alcohol and it didn’t control her.

My relationship with alcohol was very different. Once I had started drinking I could not control my intake. It didn’t matter what I had to do the next day. Once I’d started, I didn’t really care about the consequences. But no matter how much I drank, I never felt truly satisfied or content. Left to my own devices I would drink until I passed out. After a big binge I’d be ‘good’ for a while, but even then, alcohol would still be playing some tune in the background.

I’ve never had that problem with chocolate biscuits.

I guess what I’m trying to say, in a rambling, long-winded kind of way, is that perhaps Dry January is a good thing for people who aren’t problem drinkers, but who have just got into the habit of drinking too much. People who drink wine like I eat chocolate biscuits. I still think some people might misuse it and see it as a wipe-the-slate-clean, magical detox. But there are some good points. And ultimately, anything that promotes sobriety in some shape or another has got to be a good thing, right?

A crazy couple of days

Last month I was contacted out of the blue by a BBC journalist who had read my post ‘Almost Alcoholic‘. She was writing an article about the same thing and wondered if she could interview me. We chatted on the phone for a while and then I forgot all about it. As a journalist myself I know that not everyone you speak to makes the final edit. Stories often get dropped or overtaken by other news. So it was a bit of a surprise when I woke up on yesterday morning to find lots of emails and comments from people who’d read this:

 
I think it’s a great, thought-provoking article, published at just the right time. I know that right now, in the second week of January, there will be thousands of people wondering (and worrying) about their relationship with alcohol. These are people who looked at the wine glass in their hand on New Year’s Eve and vowed to cut down on their alcohol consumption. Perhaps they decided to sign up for charity events such as Alcohol Concern’s Dry January or Cancer Research UK’s Dryathlon. That’s what I did last year. I lasted a whole 7 days before I fell off the wagon. I was too ashamed to tell anyone. Lots of my friends were also doing it and they seemed to be having an easy-peasy time staying sober. Having ‘liked’ Dry January on Facebook my news feed was filled with irritating, “You-can-do-it!” type posts, which I read everyday, whilst drinking and googling “Am I an alcoholic?”
 
As a result of the BBC article I’ve gained quite a few new followers and I wanted to say a little hello. Thanks for reading my blog and I really hope it helps in some way. I clearly remember the first sober blog I stumbled across. It was by Unpickled and it was a real ‘ah ha’ moment for me. I sat down, read every post and somehow, something just clicked. So to all the new people, I wanted to say a couple of things.
 
Firstly and most importantly, being sober is great. If you want to lose weight, sleep better, feel happier and be more confident, then trust me, sobriety will look good on you. Last May I wrote a list of why sobriety rocks. I’m now nine months sober and I could definitely add a few more things to that list.
 
Not all of my posts are sweetness and light. So if you’re new here, please don’t let any of my slightly downbeat posts put you off. I write honestly about my experiences and in the past nine months I have sometimes found it hard to be young, single and sober in the boozy world we live in. I’ve had to learn how to live life without an off switch. That’s not always easy. And I’ve had to work out how to actually deal with my emotions, rather than just anesthetizing myself with a bottle of wine. But you know, as far as downsides go, that’s been about it. The only other thing I can think of is that I can’t wear really high heels on nights out anymore. Without wine, they start to feel uncomfortable very quickly. And that’s annoying because I have a lot of beautiful shoes.
 
There are a couple of things that have really helped me get this far. I would highly recommend Jason Vale’s book “Kick the Drink, Easily”. The Allen Carr book is also good. I actually went to a stop drinking seminar at one of his clinics which you can read about here. Every week I listen to the Bubble Hour podcast because it’s brilliant. I read lots of blogs, as you can see from my blogroll. Last, but not least, at the very beginning I took part in Belle’s 100 day sobriety challenge. If you go to her site here you will find out all about sober cars and dehydrating the Wolf. The challenge goes against the AA ‘one day at a time’ way of living but hey, I’m just telling you what worked for me. Once I realised that I needed to make a long-term, permanent change to my drinking habits I found the idea of stopping for a hundred days much less scary than the idea of stopping ‘forever’.
 
Talking of AA, what the BBC article doesn’t mention is that I actually went back to AA last summer for about a month. I had a much better experience the second time round and met some truly wonderful people. So it’s kind of hard to explain why I stopped going. I guess it just didn’t feel quite right and I didn’t feel like I really needed it because I was getting all the support I needed online. But I know lots of other people who blog and go to AA. So each to their own.
 
I am going to end this post with a link to a video that I’ve posted before but it always makes me smile: Sh*t normies say to 12 steppers
If you’re sober you will relate to a lot of it  (even if you’re not part of a 12 step programme… ) 
 
 

Stoptober vs Dry January

It’s only October, yet I’ve already had several emails reminding me that Dry January is not that far away: “Thank you for taking part earlier this year … We hope you’ll join us again… only 78 days to go!”

What they don’t know is that I crashed out of Dry January about six days in and spent the rest of January drinking a lot. I’d actually started off quite well and I didn’t even drink on New Year’s Eve, as I didn’t want to start the year drunk or hungover. But six days in something happened – I can’t remember what – and I thought: fuck it. This is too hard. I remember feeling like such a failure because so many other people managed it successfully. For once, Facebook was full of people boasting about teetotal nights in rather than their hangovers. It was the perfect time to stop drinking and I just couldn’t do it.

This January should be different. I hope I’m feeling as good then as I do now. I am secretly looking forward to everyone moaning and whining their way through their month off the booze while I lie back and smugly say “Ha! One month? That is NOTHING, you losers…”

One of the strange things about Dry January is that it’s something people are only expected to do for a month. Once over, it’s totally fine – normal even – to go back to drinking as you were before. The attitude surrounding the whole month is quite different to Stoptober, the NHS stop smoking campaign that’s in full swing at the moment.

Stoptober is all about stopping smoking forever. The theory goes that if you can quit for a month you’re five times more likely to stop for good. Stoptober has had high-profile coverage in newspapers, magazines and on TV. Everyone thinks it’s a great idea because it’s widely accepted that smoking is bad. Smoking is addictive. It’s hard to stop smoking and if you do, well done you. Pat on the back.

And frankly, it is annoying the hell out of me that smokers get so much unwavering support while us boozers get so little.  Alcohol is also addictive, it’s also bad for you and if you manage to stop drinking then you deserve a pat on the back too. Or a medal.

Deep down everyone knows alcohol is bad for you – why else bother with a Dry Jan? – but the idea of giving up for good is so scary that most people can’t even contemplate it. The people behind the Dry January campaign don’t even dare to suggest it.

I don’t smoke but lets pretend for a minute that I do, or did. If I’d given up smoking rather than drinking on April 6th this year then I guarantee you all my friends would know about it. They’d have been behind me all the way. If I’d struggled to quit I’d have been able to get plenty of support from my GP or nurse without worrying about what they’d think. I’d be posting about my milestones on Facebook. I would not be writing an anonymous blog because I am too embarrassed to talk about my addiction openly.

It makes me so mad…

This is turning into a ranty, moany post and I didn’t mean it to be. I wanted to tell you about the great weekend I had in London, which ended with a lovely afternoon meeting Belle and Carrie. It was brilliant to meet face to face after all this time. I also meet some other fantastic Team 100 members: FitFatFood and The Secret Place Under the Ivy. Meeting other sober people, who are going through the same thing, is pretty amazing. Meeting sober people who know about the 100 day challenge is really amazing. I felt like saying to everyone “Wow! You look so NORMAL!”  but I didn’t, because that would have been weird. Sometimes the sober blogosphere can feel a bit big and anonymous but on Sunday it was just the opposite – it was tea and chat and cinnamon buns. Good times.